It doesn't take a psychiatrist to realise that the urge to collect toys comes from childhood, and for us who are floating dubiously around the 35-45 year old mark, there were many toy manufacturers in the late 70's/early 80's. The most famous of these were of course Hasbro who created the Transformers and Mattel, the Masters (HA!) of the He-Man series of toys.
However, one of the the most famous, and cross media, companies was probably Kenner.
Of course, Kenner's most famous, and possibly most lucrative toy. was their series of action figures and models for the Star Wars films. At that point, there had been toy tie-ins to films and TV before (usually with the toy being made first, and the show or film came after), but nothing on this scale had ever appeared. The toys themselves consisted of action figures and models of the characters and vehicles of the films. The figures didn't have a great range of movement, and compared to some later action figures they were a bit small, but they managed to capture the spirit of the films in a way that hasn't been repeated since. Models of the vehicles like the Millennium Falcon or the now rarer AT-AT walker were incredibly detailed for the time, and often features some sort of battery operated light and sound effect feature. Although the toys tended to lose bits off them here and there over the years, they were incredibly durable (especially the figures themselves), and can be found even today in reasonably good condition.
I myself have a Stormtrooper figure with 1977 stamped on his leg, which makes my small plastic friend just as old as I am (probably older since I was born in the latter half of the year).
The magic of Kenner and Star Wars can't be understated. For those of us that were lucky to have had a ZX Spectrum in the house, being inside wasn't that big a deal. However, when the weather was good there was nothing that could stop us kids taking our Star Wars figures into the street or garden and re-creating (sometimes improvising) the battles and scenes of the films.
I doubt kids today will know the joy of saving up and buying a new edition to their glorious collection, and that wonderful 'new toy' smell that probably came with toxic plastic materials in non-foil lined, cardboard only packaging.
A truly wonderful time to be alive!
In 2000, Kenner was acquired by rival toy company Hasbro, who merged their toy lines into one effectively discontinuing the company.
We were shown a documentary on the making of Manta Force in our school a few months before it's release in 1987. Whether this was some sort of dubious toy/school tie in was anyone's guess and although the distraction from real school work was welcome at the time it was a strange thing to have shown children in a school setting.
Ultimately it worked though as I was the proud owner of a Manta force set that very Christmas.
Toys are still very much with us but it seems that technology is taking over from solid plastic with iPhones and Laptops being produced for younger and younger children. Toy lines can still be found in stores and they still usually come with a film tie in which is very commonplace now but the urge to actually make a collection as a child seems to have somewhat vanished.
Building your collection up then inviting a chum over who had figures that you didn't have was monumentally exciting and added a breath of fresh air to the usual stories you were forced to come up with due to your limited collection. Here friendships were wither solidified or broken as you played on the same level as each other in wondrous fantasy or you made the grim mistake of leaving your toys at a friends house, some of which would almost always go 'missing'.
It's true that toys are little more than shelf ornaments now for adult collectors but the urge to get on the floor and play with them never leave the soul.....ever!
Any other opinion is lies!!!
Striding forth from his lair at Castle Stareskull one morning, Prototron decided to not reign down terror on the villagers, but instead go back inside, crack open a beer and load up Streets Of Rage 2. One hundred years later, he's still there. A avid music maker (of TERROR!) and retro gamer, he can be found whooping any and all heroes at all manner of SNK-based challenges.